The penultimate episode for this season has wrapped up and it was an interesting one to say the least. I’m a big fan of the show but I almost felt like this was a shuffle step backwards. This isn’t so much the fault of the show itself but the overall problem with a “serial” style show as opposed to a more arc specific series. It’s the difference between the old ‘one and done’ style comic books and today’s collected trade style format. Both do have merits but they also have perils. This episode falls somewhere in between.
Overall, the whole thing just felt a bit “meh”. Were there high points? Sure. Manny and John’s interaction after the aforementioned angel gets a little in the hospital closet was humorous. Were there low points? Sure. Zed questioning whether she has a gift or if it all has to do with a mass in her brain was almost pointless. With all she’s seen and experienced why in the world would she think for a second that she is hallucinating it all? It just didn’t make any sense.
In the end I felt a bit like Chas during the outset of their adventure to the hospital. Yes, I’ve got a screwdriver in my leg but I know it’s for the greater good and I know it really isn’t a problem. Still, I probably wouldn’t do it again.
So, summing up the show: A demon is killing people, John and company to the rescue, Zed might have a brain tumor, it turns out it was the doctor all along and Manny got laid. That about cover it? Good.
NOW! Let’s get to what I really wanted to talk about.
The big news on the shelf this week is that there is a sneaky rumor going around the intertubes that NBC is thinking about moving Constantine from its main stage to its sister company, SyFy. This move would probably involve a name change from “Constantine” to “Hellblazer” but, supposedly, that would be the only change being made. The key word there, children, is “supposedly”.
First off, what does this say to me, the viewer? Well, it says that NBC likes making money. They see that there is money to be made with the show but realize that they got into bed with something that might not be quite as easy to digest as The Cosby Show (seems a bit creepy now that I’ve typed that out…but you know what I’m saying). They don’t want to cut it loose all together because they think that someone like Netflix or a streamer of that ilk could swoop in and make bank with it. So, they shuttle it off to a “sister” network and still reap the benefits in the end. It’s a smart plan when you think about it.
Now, as I said before, this is all a rumor but let’s play with it like it’s gospel for the time being. The show is on a new network with new rules – a network where blood and guts is not something to be shied away from (seriously, watch a few episodes of “Helix” and you’ll know where I’m coming from). Now here’s the big question: You’ve got your bags packed and are ready to go down the street. What do you take with you and what do you leave behind? Let’s explore that, shall we?
John Constantine: Matt Ryan
There’s no question in my mind that you need to have Matty along for the ride. From interviews and his work, there’s no question that this guy is deep into the character. You can see when someone is enjoying their job, it shows in everything they do. Ryan is a no brainer.
I’ll admit that when I first heard that he was going to be the man in the trench coat I was a little surprised. “Who the hell is this guy? How is he the choice for John?” It took me all of five minutes into the first episode to realize that they had found the perfect man for the job. He’s a keeper.
Manny: Harold Perrineau
I know what you think I’m going to say. Instant keeper, right? Think again, Spartacus. As much as it pains me to say this, I think that Manny’s character needs to go the way of the dodo. This has nothing to do with the man behind the character. It has everything to do with the story itself.
The map is gone and, based on what it appears the final episode will hold for our heroes, the Rising Darkness will be confronted and, most likely, destroyed. That’s Manny’s job. Deal with the Rising Darkness. The character on his best day was John’s conscience (there are other people who can and will fulfill that job) and on his worst day he was John’s cryptic tormentor (there are plenty of folks stepping up to the plate to fill this position as well). In short, Manny has run his course as a character.
Now this isn’t to say that we should never hear from him again. I would love to see him come back and reprise his role in some capacity but I just don’t see any point in him going forward. He’s a gifted actor and he turned a one note character into someone with far more depth than he was originally supposed to have. I’ll be sad to see him go but I think it’s time.
Chas Chandler: Charles Halford
The name on the sandwich board says “Constantine” but Chas has done more than his fair share in making this show as much about him as it is about our “hero”. This, in large part, has been because of Halford. The character has shown range in dealing with John and, at the core of it, he really is the moral center of the show.
Halford himself has become someone I want to see more of. He’s got good comic timing. We’ve seen him play a heavy in a believable sense as well as being sympathetic. He’s actually gone so far as to turn a somewhat bumbling side character into someone I get excited about. He’s shown an incredible level of smarts when it comes to his time on screen and shown just how much you can do with, at times, very little to do. This is one of those rare occasions where the character on the screen is actually more engaging than the one on the page.
Matt Ryan might be the heart of the show but, to me, the brain of the show has to be Halford. He’s a keeper, without a question.
Zed Martin: Angelica Celaya
I’ve tried, folks, I really have. I have found things about her performances to like and a few odds and ends with her character that I enjoyed. When she took off her bra, hiked up her shirt and walked into the prison, I found myself thinking, “Now that’s the woman on the run who knows how to survive”. Then the actress and the character would backslide terribly (for example: this episode) and I found myself saddened by the fact that it was going to be a Zed heavy episode. Then she would surprise me again. She’s been hot and cold for the whole run and it’s just not working for me at this point.
I am not saying that Ms. Celaya is not a talented actress or that she’s not capable. I just don’t think it’s a good fit. Like Sam Keith said when he left “Sandman”: “I felt like I was Jimi Hendrix in the Beatles.” Just because someone’s a good actor/actress it doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for a certain piece.
Now this doesn’t mean that we need to lose the female sidekick all together. Flip through just about any issue of Hellblazer and you’ll find a lass by John’s side (barring of course his time in prison). There are a lot of choices to make there and I think they just need to find the right sounding board and the right actress to make this piece of the puzzle fit. For now though, Celaya should be out.
Well, first and foremost, with the show no longer being on NBC and not having to cater to a broad audience they could embrace a lot of little things that made Constantine so interesting. The first of them being the location of the show.
I love Atlanta. I spent a lot of time there during my college and post-college years but it isn’t exactly paranormal central. John has his roots in the UK and now, not having to pander to middle America (no offense guys…I hear good things about you), he’s free to return there. It would be a great move for the show and the character and afford for the show to bring in a good many legitimate story lines. He can come back to the US any time he wants and he should. I think doing the “Damnations Flame” arc would be brilliant and for that you need America. For now, however, let the lad go home.
Now, WERE Martin to be written off the show, where would that leave us as far as female co-stars? Luckily there are more than a few that I think could fill that hole nicely.
A succubus who falls from favor in hell and ends up lost our world. There’s a level of danger that comes with a character like this and I think it could work well with the right actress seduces, using and confounding John. There would be no more of the pseudo-sexual tension that you currently have with John and Zed. Ellie would be able to embrace the sexuality and most likely confound the man who’s used to being the one using people.
- Kit Ryan
Ah Kit. What can you say about the one who got away? She and John had a real and true thing but, John being who he is, it just wasn’t meant to be. This is a character who, to be fair, wouldn’t be a long haul member of the team. She would be aware of who and what our “hero” is, sticks it out for a season and leaves him in the season 2 finale. He’d open season 3 a broken hearted, more self-destructive wanker and really embrace the dark side of John Constantine.
- Gemma Masters
Now here’s a truly sticky character that would be a ton of fun for a younger actress. She’s John’s niece and an aspiring mistress of the dark arts herself. Things with John and his sister, Cheryl, and brother-in-law, Tony (“the Bible thumper”), have never been smooth but even less so when Gemma tries to follow in her uncle’s shoes. Bringing Gemma in would push the story of John’s family to the forefront and dig up more than a few family skeletons. She’s also nowhere near as skilled as Uncle John so there’s always the chance that she’s going to screw the pooch and make things worse. And, as much as we hate to admit it, when things get worse for John they get far more compelling for us as the audience.
And Finally…EMBRACE THE ARC
There are so many great arc in the Hellblazer series, so much history. Now, I’m not saying that the show doesn’t need to try and do an arc a season. That would be stretching things rather thin. What I’m thinking is that they follow things with the books and have multiple arcs per season. They’ve already touched on several of the early stories and laid the groundwork with the Newcastle Crew. They’ve set up a great framework for moving forward. Now is as good a time as any to start really embracing the stories.
Now, I’m sure that with a move to SyFy, NBC will have lowered its expectations for ratings enough that they will keep the show alive. This does not mean that the show itself should lower its expectations. I have said for the run of this truncated season that it was filled with promise. A move to a new network can allow the team behind the camera (and in front of it as well) to really push things. They no longer need to be safe with a lot of what they do. They would be able to unfurl their dark leathery wings and truly take flight.
This all, of course, is relying on the fact that we’re actually moving to SyFy. Internet talk is still just talk. There might not be the hot air but I’m sure those keys are just as toasty. We’ll just have to cross our fingers, hope that the rumors become reality and we won’t have to file Constantine the show away on a shelf with dreams of what could have been.